I'm connecting a tape player to a PCI Creative sound card, to record from an audio tape (to make mp3 files).
What sample rate is it best for this ? 44.1 khz ? Or 48 khz, then export a wav file downsampled to 44.1 khz, and then encode with lame ?
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Tape is analog, meaning ~infinite sample rate, so you can set it to whatever is appropriate for your needs.
Is this going to be used on Audio CDs? Use 44,100Hz.
Is this going to be used with Digital Video? Use 48000Hz.
Is this going to be used as Hi-Def, along with other Hi-Def material? Use 96000Hz or 192000Hz (and 24bits), save a master copy, and then downsample for use in more general consumer applications (such as above).
Most people who intend to have MP3 copies gravitate towards 44.1/16bit/stereo. I say, it never hurts to keep as good a copy as possible.
Particularly if you are transferring from audio tape, there may come a time where you cannot redo a transfer, so it makes good sense to do it as good as possible while you can. With this in mind, I would STRONGLY recommend that you record & save a high quality LPCM wav master and then ONLY make an mp3 end-use copy after the fact.
Note, however, that quality-wise, it is quite often the case that the tape recording itself & the tape player are the limiting factors in play. You may have to do some mild noise reduction, etc. first...